Tuesday, 14 May 2013 16:03

Bangladesh Factory Collapse Kills 1,100 Garment Workers

A deadly garment factory building collapse killed more than 1,100 workers in Bangladesh. The tragedy has put immense pressure on big brands to overhaul supply chain protections.

The Savar building collapsed five months after a fire at a garment factory near Dhaka killed more than 100 people, and was the worst industrial disaster since 1984. Worker unrest following the collapse prompted 300 factories to shut down indefinitely.

One seamstress survived 17 days trapped inside the building by keeping alive on dry food and water within the ruins.

Green America and allies for Fair Trade and worker protections called on clothing manufacturers doing business in Bangladesh to sign on to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement, a legally binding agreement that will require the largest clothing brands to make immediate safety improvements to their supplier factories.

H&M, the global fast fashion store, on Monday agreed to support a new plan to prevent fires and building collapses in Bangladesh apparel factories. The company's announcement prompted a flood of international brands to join in the agreement that promises to overhaul the way health and safety is monitored in Bangladesh.

The five-year plan calls for independent safety inspections and for companies to publicly report the findings. It is backed by IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union, which represent workers in 140 countries. It also requires retailers to help finance fire safety and building improvements in factories they work with. Companies who sign on will have to terminate business with any factory that refuses to make necessary safety upgrades.

PVH, the only American company to sign the pact, said it will commit up to $2.5 million to underwrite the program.

Walmart, JC Penney, Benetton, The Children’s Place, Dress Barn, and Cato Fashion were just a few of the brands connected to manufacturing at Rana. "Any brand manufacturing in Bangladesh has the responsibility to ensure that workers who sew their products have a safe place to go to work. The tragedy at Rana is only the most recent of a series of preventable disasters, including the Tazreen factory fire last fall that killed 112 people," said Liz O'Connell, Green America's Fair Trade Director.

Labor experts said the agreement paves the way for meaningful changes in a way that hasn't been done before. While most major retailers already have safety standards and monitoring protocols for their factories in place, there has been virtually no transparency about the process.

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